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RAAF Super Hornets conduct Harpoon trial flights

written by australianaviation.com.au | May 9, 2014
An RAAF Super Hornet taxis with live Harpoon ASuW missiles. (Defence)
An RAAF Super Hornet taxis with live Harpoon ASuW missiles. (Defence)

The F/A-18Fs of the RAAF’s 82WG based at Amberley have been conducting trial flights with Boeing AGM-84J Harpoon anti-surface warfare (ASuW) missiles in recent weeks.

The trials are part of the development of systems, procedures and training to employ the Harpoon with a full operational clearance, and are based on those used by the US Navy.

A Defence spokesperson told Australian Aviation that the Harpoon will complement the Raytheon AGM-54C-1 JSOW precision weapon in the Super Hornet’s ASuW arsenal. In a written response to questions, the spokesperson said: “The choice of weapon used would be subject to the tactical and threat scenario,” adding that the two weapons “have different navigation and target sensors and different launch envelopes making them complementary weapons for maritime strike.”

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The Harpoon missile has a range of more than 100km and can attack ships or fixed land targets. The JSOW is a low observable glide weapon with GPS guidance with a mid-course update capability via datalink and, when launched from altitude, can fly more than 50km to hit moving surface vessels or land targets.

The ADF’s entire inventory of Block 1 Harpoons is able to be configured for air launch, or for rail or canister surface, or for submarine launch systems.

The trials are to validate 82WG's development of systems, procedures and training with the Harpoon. (Defence)
The trials are to validate 82WG’s development of systems, procedures and training with the Harpoon. (Defence)

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7 Comments

  • John N

    says:

    AA,

    I thought that the ADF’s stocks of Harpoon had been upgraded to Block II (AGM/RGM/UGM-84L) configuration? Or is that just the stock used on the RAN’s frigates?

    But yes, Harpoon has certainly been a valuable and versatile weapon system for the ADF, available for use on air, surface and sub-surface launch platforms during its life.

    It will be interesting in the years ahead when the F-35A’s, P-8A’s, Collins replacement, Future Frigates, etc, enter service if the ADF will still look to use ‘one’ type of ASuW missile across the various platforms. The two options that come to mind are the Norwegian JSM and the US LRASM (which is a development of the JASSM-ER), both of them have considerably more range than Harpoon.

    The JSM certainly has an advantage by being able to fit in the internal weapons bays of the F-35’s, but would the RAN be interested? On the other hand, LRASM, whilst not being able to be carried internally on the F-35, but maybe its long range would negate that issue and it has been test fired from the Mk41 VLS systems, as used on the RAN’s ships and I’ve read that a sub-launched version is being looked at being developed too.

    Anyway, Harpoon appears to still have a long and productive life ahead of it in ADF service!

    Cheers,

    John N

    • australianaviation.com.au

      says:

      I noticed this as well John and have asked a follow up of the ADF – will update when I get a response.

      Re LRASM, while it looks to be a good capability, I doubt it fits in an F-35A’s weapons bay, whereas the JSM will. That might be determining factor…

      Cheers

      Andrew

  • John N

    says:

    Thanks Andrew,

    It will be interesting what the ADF has to say, to the best of my knowledge, Australia acquired Block II upgrade kits a fair while ago, I also remember a couple of years ago the RAN produced a media release about successful firing of Block II from HMAS Perth too.

    That’s correct JSM can, but LRASM (and the missiles it is based on, JASSM, JASSM-ER), don’t fit in the F-35’s internal weapons bay, so it will be interesting to see if the ADF ends up with more than one type of ASuW missile eventually.

    Might be worth doing an AA article on future weapons that may be used on the F-35A’s, P-8A’s, Future Frigates, Collins replacement, etc.

    Cheers,

    John N

  • The Road Runner

    says:

    The AGM-84J was known as the “Harpoon 2000” and later evolved into the AGM-84 Block 2.
    No “J” series were ever manufactured. Its probably a typo and someone in government thought the “J” was also known as the Block 2 .

    • Frank

      says:

      Yes, you have the “J”.

  • Paul

    says:

    My understanding is that Australia and Norway via Kongesberg have been developing what is known as the Joint Strike Missile a derviative of Naval Strike Missile to fit into the weapons bay of the JSF. The modified version is physcially shorter than the land and ship based versions. One of the successes of this program is whilst the missile is physically shorter they have been able to extend its range. The JSM is able to land attack as well as sea strike and has a range of 290+ km. Two JSM are able to be carried internally on a JSF and up to four on F/A-18F Super Hornet. The JSM is seen as 5th Gen missile to replace both the Harpoon and Penguin missiles.

    • australianaviation.com.au

      says:

      Hi Paul

      Norway has taken the lead on JSM integration and it is programmed to be incorporated into the Block 4 software load in time for the RAAF’s FOC in 2023. But the LRASM and nascent JSOW-ER are also likely to be looked at.

      Cheers

      Andrew

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